GET TO KNOW YOUR COUNCIL: 10 QUESTIONS WITH MAMOKUENA MAKHEMA, OUR CO-VICE CHAIR: COMMUNICATIONS, RELATIONS & MARKETING
1. Describe yourself in five words.
Broken like EVERYONE, yet tenacious.
2. Tell us about your journey as a writer.
As a little girl in the ’80s, I used to pull (steal) multiples of thin exercise books from a stack meant for school and write stories hiding behind my late grandmother’s house. Sometimes I discover those stories whenever I go through old books at my gran’s house. Fast forward to high school, I use to take charge of creating school plays for end of year functions. I am an avid reader, which I now know is the key ingredient to becoming a writer.
When I went to university at 18, it was to study Literature in English and History. However, in my second year of study the universe decided I deserved more, I was amongst the first group at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) to enrol into Theatre Studies as a second major. I began to write scripts. However, soon after joining the corporate world in Lesotho, it became clear that my field of study wasn’t yet recognized, but I managed to keep writing whatever was available. In 2002 July I enrolled at Wits to pursue a Masters in Film. I majored in Screenwriting and Documenting History.
One would think this made my journey smoother however I had not developed confidence professionally. When I started teaching Screenwriting at TUT I realized a shortcoming from my side, I had become academic in my thinking. I therefore challenged myself to address that discomfort and I joined the Sediba Spark programme run by the NFVF. The heavens opened! I am now a Scriptwriter, Editor and Writing Mentor. I left my lecturing job at the end of 2015 to work on the craft full time and now I am fulfilled.
3. What kind of stories are you passionate about?
I love mythology most probably because I am a Historian and a cultural fanatic. I am also passionate about women protagonists fighting to effect change in their environments. The reason must be obvious 😉
4. Which TV programme/film are you most proud of writing/creating?
For TV, Our Moments still remains my best work, not that others are not important. In Film, the script I am writing called, 12th Triumph Street, seems to occupy a special place in my heart.
5. What is the best thing about being a writer?
Writing gives me a valid reason to be alone. I enjoy living in my head and writing awards me space and absolute joy.
6. What is the worst thing about being a writer?
Apart from my constantly sore back, nothing if you’re me and not hung-up about the next pay check. Remuneration and job security remain the biggest pain for writers.
7. What are your views on the local film and TV industry and its treatment of writers?
I think generally there is growth and a better understanding of the value of writers as opposed to not so many years ago. However, a giant problem remains if the understanding is not put into tangible recognition by appropriately remunerating writers.
8. What advice would you give to other writers?
Writing is not about thinking you have brilliant, unique ideas that surpass everyone else’s. It’s about learning the required techniques and applying yourself. Secondly, you need to read. You can never be a writer if you’re not a reader. Literacy is key. Finally, write. Write everyday of your life. Just keep writing.
9. What are your plans as one of the members of the WGSA Council?
My aim is to ascertain that writing, as a career, is a worthy discipline that needs to be recognized by all stakeholders. I would also like to highlight the importance of education for all aspiring writers. Without literacy, writing is almost impossible. Equally important will be an exercise of benchmarking South African writers with their international counterparts. Lastly I would like to reach out to the rest of the continent for developmental purposes.
10. Where would you like to see the WGSA in the next 10 years?
I would like to see WGSA as the main body nationally with capacity to address any writer’s issues without financial limitations.